Friday, 15 December 2017

Dried Tomato Crusted Chicken Breast with Bocconcini and Pesto

After making up some spice blends to give as Christmas gifts this year, I had little bits of various herbs and spices leftover. One of the things I had was dried tomato; I had used it in a Tuscan rub.

While making breadcrumbs from my stale bread ends, I remembered the tomato, as well as the little bit of dried parsley I had. I combined the three to make a crust for the chicken breasts I had. The pesto in the fridge, together with some baby bocconcini, were stuffed into the chicken breast, giving the contrast of crispy outside and gooey, cheesy inside when cutting into the chicken. Yummy!!

To make the crust, start by grinding the dried tomato and parsley in a spice grinder:

2 tablespoons dried tomato
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

Grind until you have a fine powder, with some chunky pieces of tomato remaining.

Combine the ground tomato and parsley with:

3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper

Set aside until needed.

For the stuffing, combine:

6 baby bocconcini 
1 tablespoon Basil Pesto

Using a small, sharp knife make a pocket in each boneless, skinless chicken breast, as shown in the post  Herbed Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Warm Peach Chutney. 

Carefully stuff 3 of the pesto bocconcini into each pocket, and secure the opening with a toothpick. Reserve any remaining pesto.

Rub the outside of each stuffed chicken breast with the reserved pesto, adding extra if needed. The pesto will help the breadcrumbs stick to the chicken.

Coat the chicken breasts with the breadcrumbs and dried tomato mixture, pressing to help it adhere.

Using sundried tomato oil, in a hot pan, sear both sides of the stuffed and breaded chicken breasts.

Place the chicken into a 375F oven to finish cooking.

When the chicken is done, allow it to rest for 5 minutes before serving it. If some of the bocconcini has oozed out, just scoop it onto the plate...I had minimal leakage. I served the chicken with orzo, spinach and roasted cauliflower and some steamed green beans. You can leave the chicken breast whole, leaving the cheese in the middle as a surprise, or you can cut it in half to show the centre.

  • If you buy whole sundried tomatoes that are not in oil, dice them up before grinding them with the parsley and garlic. The dried tomato I bought was already diced.
  • If you have fresh herbs such as parsley, basil or oregano use those instead of dried parsley (I was using this up). Finely chop the fresh herbs and add them to the breadcrumbs and ground dried tomato.
  • The chicken does not have to be stuffed. Bake it with a slice of  bocconcini on top, or omit the cheese completely.
  • You can use other cheese for stuffing the chicken, as I did in the post  Herbed Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Warm Peach Chutney.
  • Next time you make chicken Parmesan, add some dried tomato to the breadcrumbs and cheese.
  • The chicken can be stuffed and breaded ahead of time; keep it well wrapped in the fridge, or freeze it for another time.
  • Use the tomato breadcrumbs for a casserole or baked pasta topping....
  • No pesto, then go with the usual flour, egg, breadcrumb breading system.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Candied Shallot and Bacon Tarte Tatin with Goat Cheese

This tarte tatin was my way of using up a handful of grape tomatoes, and some goat cheese. I know, I got a bit carried away, but oh was it worth the amount of steps it took to make this!!! The good thing about it is that most of the steps can be done a day or two ahead, with assembly and baking taking only a short time.

As I said, definitely worth the time...crisp, flaky almond and fennel pastry; sweet, tender and juicy shallots; sweet, salty and chewy bacon bits; juicy tomatoes and creamy, tart goat cheese. My husband is still raving about it, and we had this last night.

That being said, let's make some pastry dough:

In a food processor, combine:

3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup roughly chopped whole almonds
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground fennel seeds

Process until the nuts are finely ground.


3 ounces of cold butter, cubed

Process until you have a mixture that resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

With the processor running, add:

1 - 3 tablespoons of cold water

Add the water a tablespoon at a time, pulsing until the mixture resembles wet crumbs that will stick together when pressed between your fingers.

Dump the mixture onto the counter.


Gently knead or press the dough together to form a ball. Flatten it and wrap with plastic wrap.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling  it out.

For the shallots, peel and quarter:

14 large shallots

In a heavy bottomed pan, large enough to hold the shallots in one layer, heat:

1 ounce butter
2 tablespoons olive oil

When the butter has melted, and it starts to bubble, add:

1/3 cup of brown sugar, firmly packed

When the sugar has dissolved and combined with the oil and butter to form a bubbling caramel, add the shallots to the pan.

Keep them in one layer, and cook on a low heat, turning occasionally to coat all sides with the caramel during cooking.

Cook until the shallots are tender, about 20 - 25 minutes.

Remove the shallots from the pan, and reserve the caramel. I tried to keep as many shallots as I could together, so that I could arrange them nicely, but that is your choice. It takes a bit more time and care.

For the bacon, turn the oven on to 400F, and line a baking sheet with foil, and then place a rack on top of the foil.

Turn the reserved caramel back onto a low heat. Add:

1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar

Bring to a boil, and reduce until it starts to get syrupy. Remove from the heat.

Lay the bacon onto the rack, and brush the top side with half of the Balsamic caramel.

I used:

4 strips of bacon, cut in half

Bake the bacon until the caramel is bubbling, and the bacon is half cooked. Using tongs, turn the bacon strips over, and brush the second side with the remaining caramel. Continue to bake until the bacon is fully cooked and crispy, and the caramel is bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow the bacon to cool completely. As it cools, it will harden slightly.

To assemble, lightly grease the bottom of a pie plate.

Arrange any 'kept together' shallots around the outside if you wish to go this route.

Fill the gaps with:

12 - 14 grape tomatoes, halved
the remaining shallots

Add the candied bacon, that has cooled and been diced.

Roll the pastry out so that it is slightly larger than the pie plate, to a thickness of about 1/8".

Carefully lift the pastry up and place it over the filling, tucking it down around the sides, and trimming the edges as shown.

Brush with egg wash.

Bake at 350F until the pastry is crisp and golden, and the filling is bubbling, about 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave for a couple of minutes.

Put a plate or cutting board over the pie plate, and carefully invert it, so that the tarte tatin unmoulds with the pastry on the bottom and the filling on the top.

Crumble soft goat cheese over the top of the tart tatin.

To serve, cut the tarte tatin into 4 pieces, and serve with salad, or as a side for roast lamb or pork. I served it with an arugula and spinach salad.

  • Yes, this recipe involves a lot of steps, but most can be done ahead. Making the pastry only takes a few minutes, as does the prep for getting the shallots into the pan. Cooking them takes a while, but only requires a bit of attention.
  • For the pastry, any nuts can be used. I have made this with pecans, for the post Fig, Brie and Prosciutto Crostata with a Pecan Crust. 
  • The fennel seeds can be changed to a herb or spice that you prefer, or is more suited to the nut you have chosen.
  • Double the recipe and freeze half of the pastry for next time.
  • There is no need to be extra careful with the shallots, that was just me wanting the arranged effect. If you thinly slice the shallots they will cook faster.
  • Onions can be used instead of shallots.
  • Apple or pear wedges can be cooked in the caramel as well; this would be a nice addition if you are serving the tarte tatin alongside roast pork.
  • Bacon can be diced and cooked in a pan instead of candied; cook extra next time you are cooking bacon, and dice and freeze it. One less step to making the tart.
  • The cheese is optional; I felt that the tartness of it complimented the sweetness of the tart.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Smoked Pork and Roasted Corn Burritos with White Cheddar and Chipotle Queso

Spicy burritos on a cold evening...yum! I knew I had to do something to use the avocados that were all ripe at once, and making something with the open package of tortillas was a good place to start.

What else was there to use? Quite a lot, to be honest...tomato paste and Basic Tomato Sauce in the fridge, half an onion, some white kidney beans in the freezer along with a smoked pork tenderloin.

After some thought, I went with burritos and not enchiladas, taking the time to make a white cheddar and chipotle queso sauce to serve with them, along with the avocado.

The filling was smoky and spicy, the tortillas were slightly crispy on the bottom and the sauce was a great compliment to the filling.

Start off by roasting the corn. In an ovenproof dish, combine:

1 1/2 cups of corn
1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cumin
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
Drizzle of olive oil

Place the corn into a 350F oven and roast until it is tender, and just starting to colour. Remove from the oven and set aside until needed.

To start the filling, cook the onion in a drizzle of olive oil, until it is soft. You will need:

1/2 medium onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper

When the onion is soft, add:

1 - 2 tablespoons chili powder

Cook, stirring for a minute.

Stir in:

1/2 cup Basic Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup tomato paste

Cook for a couple of minutes.

Stir the roasted corn into the filling, along with:

1/2 cup water

Stir in the diced pork:

3 cups of cooked, diced pork

Turn the heat down and allow the filling to simmer for 15 - 20 minutes.

Taste and adjust seasoning.

Stir in:

3/4 cup white kidney beans

Remove from the heat.

To assemble, place 1/2 cup of filling onto a 10" flour tortilla.

Sprinkle with grated white cheddar.

Roll up by folding one edge over the filling,  folding the sides in and rolling it up.

Place the rolled up burritos into an ovenproof dish. Cover with foil.

Place into a 350F oven and bake until heated through, about 35 - 40 minutes, removing the foil for the last 5 minutes.

While the burritos are baking, make the white cheddar and chipotle queso.

Cook until soft:

1 small shallot, minced


2 tablespoons butter

Stir in, and cook for two minutes:

1 heaping tablespoon flour
1/2 - 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder

Whisk in:

1 cup milk

Bring to a boil, whisking, and allow it to boil for a minute.

Taste and adjust seasoning.

Whisk in:

1 1/2 cups grated white cheddar.

Remove from the heat.

Whisk in:

1 tablespoon salsa

To serve, place 2 burritos in a bowl, and pour some queso over the top, passing extra at the table. Add some diced avocado and you are ready to eat! Pass extra salsa at the table if you wish.

  • Any cooked leftover meat can be used in this filling: roast pork, chicken or beef, pulled pork, Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey.
  • The corn can be cooked in a pan, over a medium high heat, stirring often, until it starts to caramelize. It can also be grilled...leftover grilled corn on the cob would work really well.
  • Salsa can be used instead of Basic Tomato Sauce, in whole or in part if you wish.
  • The amounts for chili powder and chipotle chili powder can be altered to suit your taste, as indicated by the variation called for. If you have chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, mince some and add to the for more heat and smokiness. Add some of the adobo sauce to the queso, instead of using ground chilies.
  • If you feel that the filling is too dry, add more Basic Tomato Sauce or water.
  • Use whatever beans you have available, or omit them if you are not a fan.
  • To make this a gluten free dish, use corn tortillas and cornstarch instead of flour in the sauce.
  • The queso is optional, you can serve these with salsa and guacamole, or diced avocado.
  • I used white cheddar, feel free to use orange cheddar or pepper Jack.
  • The burritos can be assembled and frozen. Defrost before baking.
  • As the burritos are baked without sauce, they can easily be eaten by hand, and dipped in the sauce.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Apple Crumble Shortbread

A perfect Fall snack or dessert, these squares used up my three apples, the handful of pecans (I seem to go through these very quickly) and the half pound of butter in the fridge. Sweet, crunchy, nutty crumble covering a layer of thinly sliced apples and cinnamon, all on top of a brown sugar pecan shortbread crust.

We had last minute dinner guests, so added some ice cream and we had dessert. Leftovers have been eaten with coffee today!

To begin with, in an 8" square pan, make and bake the pecan crust from the post Millionaires Bar with Rum Ganache and Pecan Shortbread Crust.

While the crust is baking, prepare the apples, and the crumble topping.

In the food processor used for grinding the pecans and flour for the crust, combine:

2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
3 ounces butter, cubed

Process until you have a crumbly mixture that will form clumps if gently pressed together.

Set aside until needed.

Peel, core and thinly slice:

3 apples

Toss the apples with:

1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 - 2 tablespoons sugar

Add in:

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Toss gently to combine.

When the pecan crust is baked and out of the oven, gently and evenly spread the apples over the crust.

Spread the crumble over the apples.

Place the pan into the oven, at 350F, and bake until the apple filling starts to bubble, and the crumble is crisp and golden, about 40 - 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before lifting the foil out of the pan, and cutting the shortbread into squares or bars. It can be eaten at room temperature, or warmed up again. Serve with ice cream, whipped cream or as is.

  • As with nuts in most recipes, they can be exchanged for other nuts; I wanted to use hazelnuts but was outvoted! Nuts that pair well with apples include hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts.
  • I used Gala apples, and they were quite sweet, so I used a slightly heaped tablespoon of sugar in my filling. If you have a more tart apple, such as Granny Smith, consider adding the extra tablespoon of sugar.
  • The apples can be sliced on a mandoline, or the slicer side of a box grater (which is what I did). 
  • Pears can be substituted for apples.
  • Oats can be added to the crumble.